Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Rafael Nadal admits 'I had doubts' before U.S. Open triumph

By Paul Gittings, CNN
September 11, 2013 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
  • Rafael Nadal won 13th grand slam title at the U.S. Open
  • Closing on the all-time record of 17 held by arch rival Roger Federer
  • Victory comes after early exit at Wimbledon to Steve Darcis
  • Nadal has been troubled by knee tendon problems in recent years

(CNN) -- Crushing a string of opponents before dispatching Novak Djokovic in four sets in the U.S. Open final, Rafael Nadal was back to his ruthless best, with not a hint of the injury problems which have threatened to blight his career, even during a year which has seen him claim two grand slams.

But the Spaniard has admitted to CNN that he had real fears that as he made yet another comeback he would fall short of his own incredible standards.

"Sure I had doubts, everyone has doubts," said the 27-year-old Mallorcan.

"When you are injured you doubt if you going to be able to come back and play at 100%."

Nadal clinches 8th French Open
Nadal wins 8th French Open title
Maharajas play host
Rafael Nadal returns to the court

Closing fast on Djokovic's No.1 spot, Nadal has spent two lengthy spells on the sidelines through knee injuries, both times making a strong comeback.

Read: Nadal crashes to stunning Wimbledon defeat

Returning to the ATP Tour in February, Nadal clicked straight into gear, culminating in his eighth victory in the French Open.

But come Wimbledon his battered body could take no further punishment and Nadal was a shadow of his normal self as he crashed out in the first round to unheralded Steve Darcis, clearly troubled by knee problems.

The doubters were out in force again and with Nadal sidelined yet again, Djokovic and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray were predicted to share the grand slams between them in the foreseeable future.

They were reckoning without Nadal's incredible determination and joining the circuit again for the pre U.S. Open hard court series, the Mallorcan looked as if he had never been away, claiming titles in Montreal and Cincinnati before his Flushing Meadows triumph.

The mixture of joy and relief were there for all to see as Nadal savored every moment on the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court in claiming his 13th career grand slam.

"When you are coming back after low moments victories are all the more special and more emotional," Nadal admitted.

Read: Nadal wins 13th grand slam crown

"I enjoy it now because in a few years I won't have the chance to play like I did in the U.S. Open final."

The manner of his victory suggested that Nadal could easily outstrip all-time grand slam record holder Roger Federer, who has 17 in his trophy room.

But always at the back of Nadal's mind is the possibility his knee tendon problem might flare up again so he is taking nothing for granted.

"We need our knees, without our knees it is impossible to play well, sometimes I still have pain, but the most important thing is that at the moment I am able to play without limitations," said the newly crowned U.S. Open champion.

Nadal has been a force on the circuit for approaching a decade since bursting to prominence as a precocious teenager, particularly on his favorite clay surface.

Read: Nadal back to No.2 with Cincinnati triumph

His all action game was an immediate crowd pleaser but he admits that he takes a more measured approach these days.

"When you are a kid you are able to play with a different style, crazy jumping and all that," added Nadal.

"That moment has passed but my love and passion for the game is still the same."

All that spells bad news for those battling him at the elite end of the men's game with plenty to play for still in 2013, including the ATP World Tour Finals in London, just about the only title which has eluded him.

Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1208 GMT (2008 HKT)
Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.
Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
A year that began in uncertainty for Roger Federer ended with a historic title for the 17-time grand slam champion and his country.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1716 GMT (0116 HKT)
The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
French Tennis player Rene Lacoste, one of France's 'Four Musketeers' who won the Davis Cup in 1932, at Wimbledon. He is wearing his embroidered crocodile motif. Original Publication: People Disc - HH0434 (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0636 GMT (1436 HKT)
Marin Cilic follows in the footsteps of his coach Goran Ivanicevic by claiming a grand slam crown for Croatia, winning the U.S. Open.
September 14, 2014 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.
Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Canada and tennis? Really? Yup. The North American tennis power balance is swinging away from the States.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
As a player he was as fiery as his hair -- and as Novak Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker says he has to battle to keep his emotions in check.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1102 GMT (1902 HKT)
Tennis great Boris Becker says he was stunned by the level of criticism he received after being appointed as Novak Djokovic's coach.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1101 GMT (1901 HKT)
"I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 0114 GMT (0914 HKT)
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0746 GMT (1546 HKT)
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.